Dr. Md. Ali Nesar Khan
Bangladesh Primary Textile (PT) and Export oriented Readymade Garments (RMG) sector has impressively flourished over the last 2 decades and taken control of the driving wheel of the nation’s truck of trade & manufacturing economy. The sector now accounts for 77% of the total export earning and employs nearly 4.5 million people. Apart from the blessing of EU & US external apparel purchase policies, due to Bangladesh’s status as LDC (Least Developed Country) member, availability of low cost local semi-skilled and unskilled labors was the trump card of the local entrepreneurs’ in making courageous drive to the export market with low cost products that did not claim much quality. But the time has changed, and that is to change more with the days. The sector’s growth sustainability in the post MFA period needs qualitative improvement of the business, which has to be accompanied by improved product species & quality, higher productivity, cost effectiveness, enhanced supply chain, and better work environment (i.e., compliance). For making all this to happen, the so far gained experiences have to be coupled with the institutional learning for achieving competitive skill of international standard. In other words, strong HRD (human resource development) effort, through education and training, is essential for further meaningful change of our position in the global textile & apparel trade quantum.
The Sector ‘s HRD Milestones
Available records inform that a semi-formal ‘education cum-training’ program had been in operation with 29 satellite type vocational schools in the territory of Bangladesh during the British colonial regime, in between 1911- 1947. However, the formal education in textiles began in 1954 in the country with the start of diploma course in textile technology (first delivery 1958) in the then East Pakistan Textile Institute (later became widely familiar as Textile College). The same textile college was further updated to bachelor level (B.Sc. in Textile Technology) in 1978 with the establishment of the College of Textile Technology (CTT). Another milestone was the establishment of professional training center for textile professionals- the Textile Industry Development Centre (TIDC) under a public sector organization Bangladesh Textile Mills Corporation (BTMC)- in 1981 with the technical and financial assistance of UNIDO. Later, the Department of Textiles (DOT) that came into being in 1977 took fresh initiative for reintroducing vocational and diploma education. It was sometime around 1986 when the national NGOs have started imparting textile vocational education/ training, and private university education in Primary Textile & RMG started from 1998.
Growth of HRD Institution in the Sector
Despite the number of HRD establishment, imparting education or training, grew significantly over the last 35 years, the growth is mismatched with the growth of the industrial units not only in quantitative terms, but in qualitative terms too.
The story of textile education & training could be understood a little from the discussion made below.
Higher Specialized Education Providers
Bangladesh do not conduct highly specialized HRD program such as PhD or MS level education in Bangladesh for RMG & PT sector on regular basis. However, BIFT has started offering a Post-Graduate Diploma in Apparel Merchandizing (woven, knitwear and sweater) but that is equivalent to honors level graduation, at best. One the other hand, the country’s best technical schoolBangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET) organizes sporadically a few textile-biased engineering/technological dissertations (M.Sc.) to defend, mostly by its graduate engineer students.
B.Sc. & Diploma Education Providers
The College of Textile Technology (CTT), BGMEA Fashion Technology Institute (BIFT) and 6 private universities (Ahsanullah Engineering University, University of Prime Asia, City University, Southeast University, Daffodil University and Santa Marrium) have started offering B.Sc. in (Hon’s) course (i.e. 4-year Bachelor level technical course) in the disciplines relating to textile technology/ engineering, apparel manufacturing/ fashion technology, or merchandizing.
And two more universities, ASA University and Asian University, have planed to offer the course from the next year. From this year (i.e. in 2007), another 2 upgraded diploma institutes under DOT (at Tangail & Zorargonj districts) have also launched B.Sc. level education program for native diploma graduates. Another 2-3 private universities, recently blacklisted by the University of Grants Commission (UGC), also declared of opening of textile/fashion departments; they are so discarded from this discussion.
Presently 10 institutes are operating diploma education program; 6 of those are under DOT, 3 in the private sector, and the other is BIFT.
Under SSC (10 class) Vocational Institutions/Technical Training Centers
There are several levels of vocational educations being provided in the country. Some 32 Textile Vocational Institutes (class 10/TVI-S.S.C level technical education) under DOT conduct vocational certificate courses in textile & RMG trades. Bangladesh Handloom Board under MOT&J also run 1 large training center (Tant Proshikhan Kendra) at Narsingdhi district and 5 sub-centers in different places of the country to provide training in the areas of handloom weaving and related dyeing/printing. There are also 11 NGOs and private run centers/institutes providing 8-class equivalent vocational education/ training. Also there are 5 technical training centers under the Bureau of Manpower, Training & Employment (BMET) under the Ministry of Labor & Employment (MOL&E) to offer textile & RMG courses.
Professional Skill Training Institutions
Before the recent up-gradation, the Textile Industry Development Centre (TIDC) was a three-in-one type institute that provided training, testing, and technical counseling/trouble shooting services, enriched with highly qualified and experienced trainers. The centre was in practice to offer a range of need-based modular training courses (predominantly 1-2 weeks) to in-job professionals as well as foundation courses (3 months to 1 year) to newly recruited staff, covering issues of technology, engineering, quality, marketing and management. The participants formed wider cross-sectional resources, staring from managers/executives to engineers/ technologists to skilled floor level supervisory manpower who were directly and indirectly involved with the production and marketing. It appears from DOT Survey (Survey to assess the requirement of Technologists/ Technicians for Textile Sector of Bangladesh during next 10 years) and TIDC documents that, over the years since 1980-81 to 2000-01, TIDC conducted in excess of 800 training courses of different modalities and imparted training to nearly 16,000 persons on manufacturing/processing related issues. Approximately 5,000 participants were educated managerial/ executive level personnel, the majority of whom were engineers and technologists of diploma, graduate, or postgraduate level; two-third of them came from public sector (i.e., from BTMC mills) and the one-third from the private sector industries/organizations. Some 1,825 persons were of supervisory level, translated as so-called staff in BTMC statement in respect of division of labor. The then resourceful TIDC also trained nearly 4,800 workers through in-plant/venue based training. The rest were mostly newly recruited employees by the private sector, fresh graduates seeking jobs, learners from different educational institutions including DOT, college of Home-Economics & private universities etc.
TIDC has recently been upgraded to a national institute under the name & style National Institute of Textile Training Testing and Research and Design (NITTRAD) but, unfortunately, the institute has failed to conduct the type of need-based training courses it conducted in the past; this has happened mainly due to continuous departure of the qualified experts who have quitted the job for better placement in the private sector. Apart from demonstrating equipment to the students of private universities & DOT, NITTRAD now mainly conducts a one-year certificate course in textile technology for fresh general graduates. In fact, this course is a sort of duplication of the programs being operated by DOT & NGO/private sector organizations. However, in the very recent days, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) has taken an interest in NITTRAD for revival of its past performance and for its overall revamping so as to enable the institute to cater the needs of the primary textile industry through training, testing, research and design support.
BIFT, side by side offering education, also conducts 2-6 months long training program on issues related to technology and management of apparel industry. Of late, BIFT is seriously considering of overhauling its training program through undertaking redesigned training strategy.
Bangladesh Sericulture & Research Institute (BSRTI), a Training and Research Institute under the Ministry of Textiles & Jute, was originally established in 1962 and got separated from Bangladesh Sericulture Board in 2002. The institute imparts education (undergraduate diploma to master degree level) and training on sericulture and conduct research on mulberry seed and silk worms’ species development, which is not directly pertinent to Bangladesh textile industry. But BSRTI imparts diploma and higher certificate level education and professional training to a limited number of students in silk technology- particularly in silk reeling, weaving & dyeing/printing, which are the component disciplines of the textile gamut. There is some perceived improvement of its research and training activities in the recent years.
Since the very near past, 1-3 years back, some growing training providers in the private sector have been providing need-based training for textile and RMG industries, exploiting the huge growing demand of skilled manpower in this ever-expanding sector. So far found such 6 training institutes of pre-mature capacity, are operating in non-professional manner and imparting training in merchandising, apparel manufacturing and basic courses on operational aspects of primary textile and RMG industries.
Delivery Performance of the HRD Institutions
Textile education has registered a faster growth in the recent time, over the last 10 years. Main 2 driving thrusts in this are the strengthening of DOT’s diploma & vocational education program since 1996 and launching of degree level textile education by private universities, preceded by Ahsanullah Engineering University.
As of 1972-73, there were roughly some 556 diploma graduates who were delivered by the then textile college. However, it is not clear as how many persons were certified by 5 district level vocational institutes prior to formation of the DOT in 1977. There was not a single institution in the country that conferred B.Sc. degree in textile or RMG disciplines before 1982.
By the year of 1999-2000, there were a total 6,203 graduates who completed formal textile education in the country; of them 883 were B.Sc. graduates and 1,674 diploma graduates (from previous textile college and DOT institutions). However, the scenario changed more positively in the next 6-7 years. An informal investigation updates it that so far (by the end of 2006) 16,216 graduates in total have completed textile/apparel related courses, starting from Class 8 level vocational to university level B.Sc. level education. The present annual combined intake of the students is nearly 4,710 by all the institutions, as shown below.
The total present enrollment in all the above institutions surrounds 10,500, the dropout rate is very low (2-4%), and the graduation rate against the intake is quite high- 71%-90%, depending on individual institutes.
Quality of Education
There is no benchmark study as to analyze or compare the quality of local textile & RMG education. However, the local experts’ perceived notion is that the quality is yet to be improved to Indian or Sri Lankan standard, not speak about China, Taiwan, UK, or North American level. From the side of local primary textile & RMG employers there is a common allegation, that the existing HRD institutions provide insufficient exposure to the learners on operational, management and marketing issues actually prevailing in the industrial practices, and also they characterize the existing practical lessons as weak and less effective. According to some well educated and successful entrepreneurs of the sector, the PT & RMG education & training should be improved at least at per Indian standard within next 5 years, other wise the sector’s growth speed may experience retardation. Because the coming years’ challenge would be the value addition that is impossible to enhance without further skill development through stronger HRD intervention.
The issues, acting as barriers against the improvement of quality of primary textile & RMG education or training are briefly discussed below.
Faculty Weakness: An informal investigation reveals that, as against the current total enrollment of nearly 10,500 students in all these institutions, as shown above, some 460 persons are employed as teachers/trainers under permanent pay role; some 19 persons of them have higher specialized education such as MSc, M. Phil, or PhD in the related technical fields of education.
Apart from the numerical lacking of highly qualified teachers, there is a serious crisis of teachers by disciplines and by experience. Presently, the resource crisis is being managed through overloading the existing staff and by outsourcing the concerned resources from different organizations and industrial units. It is imperative to understand that outsourced resources happen to be less committed and need not be much accountable by the reason of the system.
None of the intuitions appear to have any modern structured program for monitoring and evaluation of teaching/learning activities; there is no designed roadmap for systematic course-curricula up-gradation with feedback from the industry. Learning, as a whole, is not adequately practical problem focused and as such has been a bit distant to meet the industrial needs. The knowledge transfer tools, even merely the class lecture delivery, are of conventional or past generation models. On-site activities such as practical lessons, project work, operational field visit, on-site cross-sectional discussions, etc. are far minimum as compared to off-site activities such as class lecture, examination, etc. The absence of systematic “education/training needs assessment” and “training of teacher/trainer” programs, lack of availability of literatures/journals, poor experience sharing culture, and deficiency in the overall professional attitude could be held responsible for weak faculty role, grossly.
Poor Physical infrastructure and Teaching Materials:
The institutional buildings or class furniture in these establishments are not bad, but they (except the Textile College and NITTRAD) are strongly suffering from shortage of essential lab-equipment, workshop facilities, and teaching materials. There is no meaningful computer support, and the libraries do not have sufficient number of essential books- not to speak about international journals or periodicals.
Lacking of Subject and Topics:
Burning topics, such as- product planning and product designing, fashion design, total productive maintenance, innovative maintenance, textile inspection and testing, quality assurance & quality management, industrial housekeeping, costing methods and cost management, market characterization & demand-supply estimation, sales and purchase operating procedures, order processing and after sales service inventory, market intelligence, management information system, customers satisfaction, ISO accreditation, pollution control and prevention, standards and regulations i.e., effluent treatment and environmental management, etc are poorly covered. On the other hand, subjects like textile machine designing, manufacturing of industrial and technical textiles, geo-textiles, production of non-woven fabrics, advance knitting, laser technique in RMG industry, mechatronics, textile & RMG engineering economics, linkage and value chain, occupational hazards including fire hazard & fire control, social rights, negotiation skill, etc. appear to be far away to be introduced.
Research & Publications:
None of the primary textile & RMG oriented educational or training institutions were found to conduct any consistent research program or to be involved cohesively in helping research articles published in any kind of journals. A few individual or collective initiatives were taken for publications of research works by publishing specialized journal, but every time those faced premature failure. A random investigation over 50 teachers/trainers reveals that 84% of them never published any research articles in their life. Some 10% had to do it in connection with their PhD/MS thesis. Some 6% published research works in their professional life, but half of them did it once so far.
In spite of all weakness, the ever expanding primary textile & RMG job market has absorbed the overwhelming majority of the graduates. Merchandising companies, HRD institutions and other direct and indirect services providers in the primary textile & RMG sub-sectors are also employing them. The textile B.Sc. graduates from the CTC have been enjoying a sort of privilege in the job market owing to their shortage against the rising demand. The BGMEA Institute of Fashion Technology claims that 90% of the graduates are employed in the industry just after having their course completed, without formal certificate. However, the private universities, as new comers, will have to wait a couple of years to judge the quality of their education and the acceptability of their graduates to the job market.
It is often hard that a few among HSC diploma and SSC vocational graduates of DOT face difficulties to some employments as their knowledge and skill do not conform properly to the needs of the industries that are equipped with modern technology, operated by highly qualified technical staff. As a result, a part of them are a bit behind their job aspiration.
None of the institutions are found to have any formal job assistance scheme for their graduates. Some private universities are planning to arrange so-called job fair for their future graduates.
Scope for Further Capacity Building
According to the UNIDO survey, by 2010 Bangladesh PT & RMG sector together may need a total of 120,154 personnel comprising 54,907 technical and 65,247 marketing personnel, apart from workers and floor level minor group leaders. It is well perceived that the present capacity is quite insufficient even to meet the half-demand of the resource personnel by 2010. However, in regard of undertaking any further move, question arises as to what modules of education (i.e., starting from PhD to vocational level education) by skill area are needed to provide for how many persons- when the pattern of division of labor as well as skill status in the sector are not thoroughly known.
Division of labor by needed skill can easily be standardized for typical and homogenous industrial units. But Bangladesh PT & RMG industrial units are highly discrete in terms of capacities, technology and way of manpower staffing. In-depth analysis is, therefore, needed to precisely estimate the actual demand of manpower by specialized skills, which could provide fair basis as how many persons need what level of education in which skill area.
It is worthwhile considering a point, whether all this above-mentioned big mass needs to be formally educated. Providing specialized education is neither possible within a short time, nor that may appear to be viable for employers/employees. Many of the currently employed personnel, particularly those who have good basic educations, could be imparted the needed skill through training or short educational course. The HRD institutions could offer them specially designed ‘need oriented sandwiched courses’, participatable in divided schedules/programs over a suitable span of time.
Investment for Further Capacity Building
It is amazing, where presently the Primary Textile & RMG sector annually earns nearly US $ 9.0 billion through export and employs nearly 65% of the total manpower in the industrial sector, the government’s annual operational expenditure is less than US $ 4.0 million (equivalent) per annum for the sector’s training and education purpose (no allocation for research purpose). This means that the governments’ annual HRD expenses for whole PT & RMG sector is a little less than 0.004% of the sector’s export earning, apart from its domestic contribution. On the other hand, the concerned stakeholders associations have sponsored many giant programs for earning name and fame, but hardly they were found cooperative with any HRD institutions beyond their direct control.
Since the government is the prime beneficiary of this sector, the government should be the first to come forward for further capacity building and should not hesitate for more investment and enhanced budgetary allocation, to the extent of at least 2.5-5% of the revenue (tax and non-tax source) the government earns from this sector. This has to be seen, with broader view, as an investment rather than narrowly thinking it as mere expenses. The stakeholders association should also proactively act in this connection, individually and jointly with the government. However, for strategic reasons, the government may also encourage, with incentive package, the private investors who are qualified and have proven track record in the relevant area, not every body just willing to invest. It is worthwhile remembering that modern HRD activity is finally not an ‘onion-pepper’ type of deal.
International donors or so-called development partners/agencies can be invited but not with a blank cheque of activity transaction; their designs including the roadmaps or logical frameworks have to be examined sensibly in view of measurable utility or impact- on short and long term perspectives. And their program/performances have to be monitored and evaluated time-to-time by the competent local experts who are qualified and have long presence in the sector; otherwise, the history may repeat without any new fruit.
In today’s’ world, almost all resources are procurable at short notice in exchange of money, except the supply of skilled human resource that may not be readily available all the time at reasonable cost. Any business may loose its competitive edge due to lack of skilled resources concerned. The present imbalanced situation of demand vis-à-vis supply of skilled human resource is the consequence of the reluctance shown in the past by the concerned parties, starting from government to stakeholders association to leading entrepreneurs. However, blaming each other is never a solution. For resolving the present and anticipated crisis, the issue has to be addressed with sincere commitment and viable initiatives. But no imitative should to be taken without proper analysis of the situation on the ground. Proper researches/studies have to be conducted prior to undertaking any capacity building project in PT & RMG sector, aiming to be impact bearing in the future, therefore. ¨
Dr. Md. Ali Nesar Khan